Soccer fans in Kazakhstan are blaming a European animal rights group for keeping their team out of the prestigious UEFA Champions League.
Shakhter Karagandy lost the second of two games to Scotland's Celtic on August 28 after the European football body UEFA told the team it was prohibited from slaughtering any more sheep ahead of competitions. In Glasgow, Celtic beat Shakhter Karagandy with an aggregate score of 3-2, booting the team from the playoff round of the competition.
Shakhter had sacrificed a wooly black ram shortly before its win against Celtic in Astana on August 21. Outraged, animal-rights group PETA urged UEFA and its head Michel Platini to ban the Kazakh club from repeating the slaughter in Glasgow.
"We are deeply disturbed that a sheep was stabbed to death in an attempt to bring good luck to the Kazakh team," The Guardian quoted PETA Associate Director Mimi Bekhechi as saying. "We hope Mr Platini will agree that animal sacrifice has no place in modern society, and we hope UEFA will act swiftly and decisively to ensure that the beautiful game is not further stained with the blood of animals."
Shakhter’s manager, Viktor Kumykov, defended the slaughter just ahead of the Glasgow game and responded to what some Kazakhs felt was a deliberate derision of their culture: "Each club has its own rituals and traditions, including Celtic. It is just that everything stays inside the team and is not leaked to the press," Kumykov said on August 27. "Such rituals bring some tranquility to the team. Regarding the first match in Astana I will say this: We scored two goals, Celtic none. That is why we won."
Kazakh football fans were livid over the ban, blaming it, in part, for their loss. "It was disappointing, it was [expletive]. Now the Karagandy players should be slaughtered," one angry supporter from Almaty told EurasiaNet.org on August 29. Shakhter’s game in Glasgow was the first time any Central Asian club got so close to the Champions League group stage.
Some fans are connecting the UEFA slaughter ban indirectly with the death of at least one Kazakh: In the southern town of Taraz, a 56-year-old football lover died of a heart attack shortly after watching Shakter Karagandy’s televised loss, Tengrinews reported.
PETA may have saved one Scottish sheep, but it’s drawn the ire of a nation.